Category: History

Challenger Shuttle Disaster Facts That You May Not Know

On this day in 1986, at 11:38am EST, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board were F. Richard Scobee (Mission Commander), Michael J. Smith (Pilot), Mission Specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis and Payload Specialist/Teacher Christa McAuliffe. Seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle broke apart in a cloud of fire. There were no survivors.

I was a middle school science teacher in Holly Hill, Florida on that day.  I’d just walked my students to lunch.  Since the shuttle was going up, I walked outside. We could see shuttle launches once they reached altitude.  It was cold so there were only a few of us watching.  We saw the shuttle vapor trail and it looked like a normal launch until it didn’t.  We all commented that this launch was different.  We’d never seen a vapor trail split like that before.

I went to the teacher’s lunch room.  As I was sitting down we received word that the shuttle had exploded.  We ate in silence.  I picked up my students and we went back to class.  Students had so many questions.  At that point we had no answers.  One of my students, a class clown, said he wished there had been more teachers on board.  The class shut him down quicker than I could.

Today History.com posted 5 Things You May Not Know About the Challenger Shuttle Disaster.  Before you click over for the full story, here are my thoughts on each.

1. The Challenger didn’t actually explode. (Although news media and even NASA at first referred to the disaster as the result of an explosion, it wasn’t.  There was a leak from the fuel tank and a fireball but not an explosion.  Many still think the Challenger exploded. – Craig)

2. The astronauts aboard the shuttle didn’t die instantly. (This was the topic of much speculation.  It’s rumored there are tapes which have never been released of the astronauts aware there was a major problem.  I hope that they lost consciousness and the end came quickly for them. – Craig)

3. Relatively few people actually saw the Challenger disaster unfold on live television. (Living in Florida, shuttle launches have always generated a lot of interest.  Since we’re close enough to see launches once they reach altitude most folks will go outside to watch.  On that January day, because it was so cold, there were only 3 or 4 of us watching. – Craig)

4. In the aftermath of the tragedy, some suggested that the White House pushed NASA to launch the shuttle in time for President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address, scheduled for later on January 28. (There was pressure, but it wasn’t from the White House.  Ronald Reagan was applauded for his words about the astronauts. – Craig)

5. More than a decade after the Challenger disaster, two large pieces from the spacecraft washed ashore at a local beach. 

“Bill Russell: Legend” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I’m looking forward to this documentary on Bill Russell.  The fact that it is on Netflix makes watching a no brainer.  Deal me in.

On the court, Bill Russell was a force to be reckoned with – a champion who sacrificed himself for his teammates and love of basketball. Off the court, Bill Russell was a force in the fight for human rights – marching with the great Martin Luther King Jr., pioneering NBA boycotts and fighting against racism. BILL RUSSELL: LEGEND tells the remarkable life and legacy of an NBA superstar and civil rights icon.

Albert Einstein’s Letter About a UFO Incident!

On July 19, 1952, a large number of people, including air traffic controllers, saw six unidentified flying objects in restricted air space over Washington, D.C.  The event lasted fourteen minutes and made national news.  It inspired Louis A. Gardner to write Albert Einstein.  He wanted Einstein’s opinion: were UFOs the result of intelligent alien life, top secret technology created by humans or something else.

Albert Einstein wrote back. His letter is above.  I’m surprised by Einstein’s response.  I would have thought he’d be curious.  But then again… maybe he wasn’t because he already knew the answer.

Source:  Albert Einstein’s Letter About UFOs at Mental Floss.

Craig’s “The Best of 2022”

As we start 2023, let’s pause for a look at the BEST OF 2022. I hope you you see something that you enjoyed or gets you interested to check it out. Here we go…

Movies and Limited Series

In 2022, I watched 409 movies and limited series. That number is up 37 from last year. None were seen in a theater! My favorite films and limited series released in 2022 included (in alpha order):

  • The Batman
  • Better Call Saul: Final Season
  • The English
  • God Forbid
  • Interceptor
  • Interview with a Vampire: Season 1
  • Ozark: Final Season
  • The Patient
  • Primal: Season 2
  • Reacher: Season 1
  • RRR
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Werewolf By Night

Tulsa King would have made the list, but since the season hasn’t finished yet, I haven’t added it. It will definitely make next year’s Best Of list.

Books

In 2022, I read 37 books (2 less than last year). My favorites from this year included (in the order I read them):

  • Love & Bullets Megabomb Edition by Nick Kolakowski

  • Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolakowski

  • The Devil’s Own Piss… by Whiskey Leavins

  • 61 Hours by Lee Child

  • Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

  • At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro

  • IQ by Joe Ide

  • Murder in Grease Paint by Whiskey Leavins

  • And Sometimes I Wonder About You by Walter Mosley

  • Righteous by Joe Ide

  • Trouble is What I Do by Walter Mosley

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino

  • Later by Stephen King

  • Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

I’m surprised I didn’t read anything by Joe Lansdale this year. How did that even happen??

My Most Popular Posts of the Year

I continue to find some surprises in what became my most popular posts each year. Here are the top ten for 2022 and some thoughts for each…

10. Top 10 Most Iconic Horror Movie VillainsDropped from #7 last year. Second year in a row to drop.

09. Batman & Manbat by Marshall Rogers & John Beatty! New to the list!

08. The Different Covers for David Morrell’s First Blood. New to the list!

07. “Clean” starring Adrian Brody – The Poster and Trailer are Here! New to the list!

06. Gadot & The Rock Strike a Pose – was in the 8th spot last year.

05. Evidence Points to NEW Suspect as the Zodiac Killer. New to the list!

04. Louis Meyers: Evidence He was the Zodiac Killer – came in the #3 spot last year and #2 the year before.

03. Dracula Through the Ages – was in our 4th spot last year. Flipped places with Louis Meyers.

02. The TWILIGHT ZONE New Year’s Eve Marathon is Coming and the Full Schedule is Out!was the most popular post last year but was beat out this year by Schwarzenegger and Williams.

01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalkregains the #1 spot for the year.

My All-Time Most Popular Posts

The top 4 didn’t change and only one new post broke in to the All-Time most popular posts. Let’s see how things shook out…

10. Joel Osteen in Jacksonville – dropped one spot from 7th to 10th. Two years in a row of drops. May not make the list next year.

09. Gadot & The Rock Strike a Pose – was in the 9th spot for the last two years.

08. The TWILIGHT ZONE New Year’s Eve Marathon is Coming and the Full Schedule is Out! New to the list!  I love the love that the TZ is getting!

07. Steve Reeves as Superman – was the #5 all-time most popular post last year.

06. Dracula Through the Ages up from the 10th spot. Vampires are in.

05. TOP 10 MOST ICONIC HORROR MOVIE VILLAINS! – from 6th to 5th. Two years in a row of moving up!

04. New Billy the Kid Photo Discovered – No change!

03. Zodiac Killer Code Cracked? – No change!

02. Louis Meyers: Evidence He Was the Zodiac Killer – No change!

01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk” – was #1 last year and continues to be our most popular post of all-time.

It’s always interesting to see which topics resonate with fans and continue to be popular long after their initial post.

“Leap Year” (1924) starring Fatty Arbuckle / Z-View

Leap Year (1924)

Director:  James Cruze, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle (uncredited)

Screenplay: Walter Woods from a story by Sarah Y. Mason

Stars: Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Stanley Piper (Arbuckle) lives with his rich uncle.  As his Uncle prepares for a trip, he warns Stanley about falling in love with every woman he meets.  Stanley is in love with just one woman.  But through a series of mix-ups several women believe that Stanley has proposed to them… and they’re all heading to see Stanley at his Uncle’s mansion.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle was at one time arguably the most popular actor in Hollywood.  He was also one of the highest paid!  Arbuckle was a breakout star from his appearances in shorts for Keystone Studios.  Roscoe Arbuckle served as a mentor to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Bob Hope.

Arbuckle was making his move into feature length films when he was charged with rape and manslaughter in the death of actress Virginia Rappe.  He was tried three times!  The first two trials resulted in hung juries.  Arbuckle was acquitted in the third trial.  For all intents and purposes, Roscoe Arbuckle was finished as a big Hollywood star.  He didn’t work much and when he directed it was under the name William Goodrich.  Roscoe Arbuckle died in his sleep in 1933.  He was just 46 years old.

Leap Year was completed in 1921, but because of the scandal it wasn’t released in the United States until 1981 for a limited run.  1924 is listed as the year of release due to the film being shown in Finland.  Leap Year showcased Fatty Arbuckle in his final feature length film.

Leap Year earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields” (2022) / Z-View

Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields (2022)

Director:  Jessica Dimmock

Stars: Tim Miller

Tagline: None.

The Story…

There’s a 25 acre area of land a little over 25 miles south of Houston that runs along Interstate 45.  This area is known as The Texas Killing Fields.  Thirty-three bodies of brutally murdered young girls and women were found in this patch of land.  Even more young girls and women from this area are still missing.

Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields focuses on four of these victims.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I don’t know which is crazier: that so many girls and women disappeared with no trace and no murderer caught for years, or that there were TWO killers working independently using the same dumping ground.

I was surprised to learn that Tim Miller’s (founder of Texas EquuSearch) daughter was one of the victims.  Miller founded Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team.  They provide assistance to families of lost and missing persons.  I became aware of Miller and his organization when he participated in the search for Caley Anthony.  I had no idea Miller’s daughter was the victim of a serial killer.

Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields has a compelling story, but was a bit padded at three episodes.  I felt bad for the innocent men accused of being the killers.  I was glad to find that two killers (could there have been more) were arrested and convicted.

Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” (2020) / Z-View

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies (2020)

Director:  Danny Wolf

Screenplay: Paul Fishbein, Danny Wolf

Stars: Pam Grier, Amy Heckerling, Mariel Hemingway, Camille Keaton, Diane Franklin, Malcolm McDowell, Angela Landis, Traci Lords, Martine Beswick, Linda Blair, Peter Bogdanovich, Elizabeth Daily, Sybil Danning, Joe Dante, Bruce Davison, Ken Davitian, Kristine DeBell, Sylvia Miles, Rena Riffel, Eric Roberts, Kevin Smith and Sean Young

Tagline: The definitive documentary on the history of nudity in feature films from the early silent days to the present, studying the changes in morality that led to the use of nudity in films while emphasizing the political, sociological and artistic changes that shaped that history.

The Plot…

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies explores, well, you guessed it, nudity in movies.  By the time the motion picture industry got started, there were already peep shows where you could crank a handle and see nudes in motion.  It was only natural that nudity would appear in mainstream films.  It’s interesting to note the changes that came in with the Hays Code and how studio’s attempted to get around it.

Skin does a good job of taking us through the changes of how film nudity was used and perceived by the public.  The producers of Skin were to smart to get the actual actors and actresses for interviews.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I joked that I watched Skin just for the interviews.  Truthfully, I was interested in the history of nudity in movies, especially the early days.  When I was a kid there wasn’t much nudity in movies, but then in the late 60s through the 80s, there often seemed to be at least one scene (at a minimum) where a woman was topless.  Hearing from the actresses (and actors) as to how they perceived performing in the nude made everything more personal.  Oh, and if you’re just tuning in to see the nude women, be aware the guys aren’t left out.  Well, maybe left “out” wasn’t the right choice of words.

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies earns 4 of 5 stars.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (2022) / Z-View

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Director:  Edward Berger

Screenplay: Ian Stokell, Lesley Paterson, Edward Berger based on the novel  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Stars: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Paul Bäumer (Krammerer) is about to graduate high school when he and his classmates hear a rousing patriotic speech about joining the service.  Paul and his friends enlist thinking that the war will be over soon and they’ll come back heroes.  They will learn how wrong they are… if they survive.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

All Quiet on the Western Front is based on Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel of the same name.  Written in 1929, it was banned when the Nazis took over Germany.  All Quiet on the Western Front has been adapted three times.  Twice for feature films and once for television.  It’s a timeless story about the harsh realities of war.

This 2022 adaptation is excellent.  It won National Review awards as one of the Top Five Foreign Language Films and for Best Adapted Screenplay.  It won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling as well as Best Visual Effects in the European Film Awards.

All Quiet on the Western Front contains powerful, tense scenes of war that are heightened by quiet moments before and after the carnage.  There are scenes that will stay with you.  For me, one of the most telling is when the new recruits are unknowingly given uniforms taken off dead soldiers.  The bullet holes having been sewn together by scores of women at sewing machines.

It’s also a sad comment when young soldiers on both sides are in the elements with little to eat, fighting the weather as well as each other. Meanwhile diplomats and high ranking soldiers are getting the best food and amenities as they argue the terms of surrender.  Then when an agreement to end the war at 11:00 is reached, one power-hungry commander orders his soldiers to make a last minute attack that will cost many, many lives but have no positive outcome to the war.

If I was to nitpick, I might say that All Quiet on the Western Front was a bit long, but not long enough to kill my enjoyment of it.

All Quiet on the Western Front earns 4 of 5 stars.

“God Forbid” (2022) / Z-View

God Forbid (2022)

Director: Billy Corben

Stars: Giancarlo Granda, Jerry Falwell Jr., Becki Falwell, Michael Cohen, Tom Arnold, Ted Cruz, Mike Pence and Donald Trump.

Tagline: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty.

The Story…

When Giancarlo Granda was a twenty year old pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Hotel, a hot looking “older” woman hit on him.  They flirted. Later she invited him up to her room for sex… but the catch was her husband would watch.  At the time, Granda had no idea the woman was Becki Falwell.  Her husband was Jerry Falwell, Jr.! Falwell was president of university operations at Liberty University (started by his father) and one of the most powerful leaders of the Christian Right. Their hookup led to a seven year affair with Giancarlo being flown around the world, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and invited to events with leading political figures.

Ultimately the affair would become public and lead to the downfall of Jerry Falwell Jr,

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  A story where one of the most powerful members of the Christian Right is brought down because he liked to watch his wife have sex with a “pool boy” would be laughed at as too cliché.  Yet that is what happened.

How stupid do you have to be to do the things that Jerry Falwell and his wife did?  Very. I think the only thing that would measure higher than their stupidity was their ability to live as hypocrites.

God Forbid is interesting and well done.  At times It almost has a “Godfather” like feel with they way powerful people trade “favors” to get things done.

God Forbid earns 5 of 5 stars.

TOO MANY BULLETS: A Nathan Heller Case by Max Allan Collins is Coming!

It’s no secret. I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nathan Heller series.  In it, detective Nathan Heller gets involved with famous cases throughout history.  Max Collins does an exhaustive amount of research for each book and provides a solution to each case, that is sometimes at odds with history.  As the series progresses, Heller ages in real time.

Hard Case Crime has announced that a new Heller book will be out in the Fall of 2023.  Titled Too Many Bullets, it will have Heller investigating Robert Kennedy’s assassination.  That’s the cover above, and it’s a beauty painted by Paul Mann.

If you’re a fan of alternative history or detective stories, heck, if you’re a fan of well written books, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Nathan Heller tales by Max Allan Collins.

RIP: Robert Clary

Robert Clary, the actor best known as Corporal LeBeau on the popular television series, Hogan’s Heroes, has died.  Mr. Clary was 96.

Born in Paris, France, Robert Clary began singing professionally at the age of twelve!  When the Nazis invaded France, Robert Clary along with twelve other family members were sent to a concentration camp.  Mr. Clary was the only one to survive.

After the war, Robert Clary continued his singing career.  Some of his recordings were popular both in France and the U.S.  In 1949, Mr. Clary came to the United States.  He started getting roles on television and Broadway.

In 1965, Robert Clary began appearing on Hogan’s Heroes in the role that made him famous.  The series ran from 1965 – 1971.  In 1972, Mr. Clary was cast in a role on Days of Our Lives that lasted until 1987.  In 1990, he joined The Bold and the Beautiful in a part that lasted 43 episodes.

Other notable Robert  Clary appearances were in the feature film, The Hindenburg, as well as television guest spots on The High Chaparral, Love American Style. Fantasy Island and The Munsters Today,

Robert Clary always seemed to have a joy about him that made you smile.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert Clary’s family, friends and fans.

“The Man in the Barn” (1937) Directed by Jacques Tourneur / Z-View

The Man in the Barn (1937)

Director:  Jacques Tourneur

Screenplay:  Morgan Cox

Stars:  Carey Wilson, Virginia Brissac

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

In 1903, David E. George on his deathbed claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed Abraham Lincoln.

Although accepted history has it that Booth was killed in a barn twelve days after his murder of President Lincoln, this short explores the possibility that David George was in fact John Wilkes Booth!

I wanted to see this short for two reasons:

  1. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur, the director of The Cat People, Out of the Past, Curse of the Demon and so many other films.
  2. It involved the conspiracy theory that John Wilkes Booth survived until 1903.  I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy theory.

Tourneur’s talent is wasted & so was my time.

The Man in the Barn earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I’m diggin’ that poster and the trailer has me looking forward to checking out Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues.

You’ve heard his influential music, now hear his incredible story. Get to know Louis Armstrong through never-before-heard home recordings, archival footage, and personal conversations when Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues premieres October 28 on Apple TV+ https://apple.co/_BlackAndBlues_

This definitive documentary, directed by Sacha Jenkins, honors Armstrong’s legacy as a founding father of jazz, one of the first internationally known and beloved stars, and a cultural ambassador of the United States. The film shows how Armstrong’s own life spans the shift from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, and how he became a lightning rod figure in that turbulent era. With the full support of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the filmmakers have access to a treasure trove of rare archival materials, including hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries, and a life’s worth of ephemera for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to his life.

Song: “Black and Blue” by The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong All Stars, Nicholas Payton, Common https://apple.co/_BlackandBlue

Song: “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue” by Louis Armstrong https://apple.co/WhatDidIDo_Armstrong

“Is That Black Enough for You?” – The Poster and Trailer Are Here! 

Is That Black Enough for You? – The poster and trailer are here.  Netflix continues to kill it with documentaries.  I’m looking forward to this one.

How did one decade change American cinema – and culture – forever? Elvis Mitchell explores the history of Black representation and the cultural impact of witnessing unapologetic Blackness. #IsThatBlackEnoughForYou

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (2022) / Z-View

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (2022)

Director:  Emma Cooper

Appearances: Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Hoffa, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Peter Lawford

Tagline: The brighter the star, the darker the truth.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Anthony Summers, who wrote the Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, shares snippets of some of the 650 interviews he did while researching the book. The documentary uses actors/actresses to lip sync to the recordings.  I found this distracting. It gave the movie a tabloid feel.  I was hoping for some new information, but if you know Marilyn’s story as well as the most popular theories of her death, there’s nothing new here.

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes earns 2 of 5 stars.